Barbary sheep

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Barbary sheep
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Subfamily: Caprinae
Genus: Ammotragus
(Blyth, 1840)
A. lervia
Binomial name
Ammotragus lervia
(Pallas, 1777)

A. l. angusiRothschild, 1921
A. l. blaineiRothschild, 1913
A. l. lerviaPallas, 1777
A. l. fassiniLepri, 1930
A. l. ornatus I. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1827
A. l. sahariensisRothschild, 1913



Antilope lervia [2]
Capra lervia [3]

The Barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia), also known as aoudad is a species of caprid native to rocky mountains in North Africa. Six subspecies have been described. Although it is rare in its native North Africa, it has been introduced to North America, southern Europe, and elsewhere. It is also known in the Berber language as waddan or arwi, and in former French territories as the moufflon.


Barbary sheep stand 60 to 90 cm (2.0 to 3.0 ft) tall at the shoulder, with a length around 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in), and weigh 40 to 140 kg (88 to 309 lb). They are sandy-brown, darkening with age, with a slightly lighter underbelly and a darker line along the back. Upper parts and the outer parts of the legs are a uniform reddish- or grayish-brown. Some shaggy hair is on the throat (extending down to the chest in males) with a sparse mane. Their horns have a triangular cross-section. The horns curve outward, backward, then inward, and can exceed 76 cm (30 in) in length. The horns are fairly smooth, with slight wrinkles evident at the base as the animal matures. [4]


Natural range

Barbary sheep naturally occur in northern Africa in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, northern Chad, Egypt, Libya, northern Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Sudan (west of the Nile, and in the Red Sea Hills east of the Nile). [5]

Introduced populations

In the London Zoo Barbary Sheep 2 (ca 1919-1940).jpg
In the London Zoo

Barbary sheep have been introduced to southeastern Spain, [6] the southwestern United States [7] (Chinati Mountains on La Escalera Ranch, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Palo Duro Canyon, the Trans-Pecos, and other parts of Texas and New Mexico), Niihau Island (Hawaii), Mexico, and some parts of Africa.[ citation needed ] They have become common in a limited region of southeastern Spain, since its introduction in 1970 to Sierra Espuña regional park as a game species. Its adaptability enabled it to colonise nearby areas quickly, and private game estates provided other centers of dispersion. The species is currently expanding, according to recent field surveys, now being found in the provinces of Alicante, Almería, Granada, and Murcia. [8] This species is a potential competitor to native ungulates inhabiting the Iberian Peninsula. The species has also been introduced to La Palma (Canary Islands), and has spread throughout the northern and central parts of the island, where it is a serious threat to endemic vegetation. [9]


Juvenile Ammotragus lervia, ZOO Praha 121.jpg

A. lervia is the only species in the genus Ammotragus. However, some authors include this genus in the goat genus Capra , together with the sheep genus Ovis . [3]

The subspecies are found allopatrically in various parts of North Africa: [5]


Barbary sheep Barbary.sheep.750pix.jpg
Barbary sheep

Barbary sheep are found in arid mountainous areas where they graze and browse grasses, bushes, and lichens. They are able to obtain all their metabolic water from food, but if liquid water is available, they drink and wallow in it. Barbary sheep are crepuscular - active in the early morning and late afternoon and rest in the heat of the day. They are very agile and can achieve a standing jump over 2 metres (7 ft). They are well adapted to their habitat, which consist of steep, rocky mountains and canyons. They often flee at the first sign of danger, typically running uphill. They are extremely nomadic and travel constantly via mountain ranges. Their main predators in North Africa were the Barbary leopard, the Barbary lion, and caracal, but now humans, feral dogs, competition due to overgrazing by domestic animals and drought [12] threaten their populations.


The binomial name Ammotragus lervia derives from the Greek ἄμμος ámmos ("sand", referring to the sand-coloured coat) and τράγος trágos ("goat").

Lervia derives from the wild sheep of northern Africa described as "lerwee" by Rev. T. Shaw in his "Travels and Observations" about parts of Barbary and Levant.

The Spanish named this sheep the arruis, from Berber arrwis, and the Spanish Legion even used it as a mascot for a time.

Aoudad ([ˈɑː.uːdæd]) is the name for this sheep used by the Berbers, a North African people, and it is also called arui and waddan (in Libya).

Related Research Articles

Caprinae Subfamily of mammals

The subfamily Caprinae is part of the ruminant family Bovidae, and consists of mostly medium-sized bovids. A member of this subfamily is called a caprine, or, more informally, a goat-antelope.

Bovidae Family of mammals belonging to even-toed ungulates

The Bovidae comprise the biological family of cloven-hoofed, ruminant mammals that includes nilgai, bison, African buffalo, water buffalo, antelopes, wildebeest, hartebeest, Common tsessebe, bontebok, hirola, sheep, goats, muskoxen, and domestic cattle. A member of this family is called a bovid. With 143 extant species and 300 known extinct species, the family Bovidae consists of eight major subfamilies apart from the disputed Peleinae and Pantholopinae. The family evolved 20 million years ago, in the early Miocene.

Lechwe Species of mammal

The lechwe, red lechwe or southern lechwe, is an antelope found in wetlands of south central Africa.

<i>Capra</i> (genus) Genus of mammals, the goats

Capra is a genus of mammals, the goats, composed of up to nine species, including the markhor and many species known as ibexes. The domestic goat is a domesticated species derived from the wild goat. Evidence of goat domestication dates back more than 8,500 years.

<i>Ovis</i> Genus of mammals

Ovis is a genus of mammals, part of the Caprinae subfamily of the ruminant family Bovidae. Its seven highly sociable species are known as sheep. Domestic sheep are members of the genus, and are thought to be descended from the wild mouflon of central and southwest Asia.

Goral Genus of mammals

The gorals are four species in the genus Naemorhedus. They are small ungulates with a goat-like or antelope-like appearance. Until recently, this genus also contained the serow species.

<i>Taurotragus</i> Genus of mammals

Taurotragus is a genus of large antelopes of the African savanna, commonly known as elands. It contains two species: the common eland T. oryx and the giant eland T. derbianus.

Barbary stag Subspecies of deer

The Barbary stag or Atlas deer or African elk is a subspecies of the red deer that is native to North Africa. It is the only deer known to be native to Africa, aside from Megaceroides algericus, which went extinct approximately 6,000 years ago.

Egyptian wolf Subspecies of carnivore

The Egyptian wolf is a subspecies of African golden wolf native to northern, eastern and a part of western Africa.

Mediterranean conifer and mixed forests

Mediterranean conifer and mixed forests is an ecoregion, in the temperate coniferous forest biome, which occupies the high mountain ranges of North Africa. The term is also a botanically recognized plant association in the African and Mediterranean literature.

Tibesti–Jebel Uweinat montane xeric woodlands desert ecoregion in Africa

The Tibesti-Jebel Uweinat montane xeric woodlands is a deserts and xeric shrublands ecoregion in the eastern Sahara. The woodlands ecoregion occupies two separate highland regions, covering portions of northern Chad, southwestern Egypt, southern Libya, and northwestern Sudan.

Chinese goral Species of mammal

The Chinese goral, also known as the grey long-tailed goral or central Chinese goral, is a species of goral, a small goat-like ungulate, native to mountainous regions of Myanmar, China, India, Thailand, Vietnam, and possibly Laos. In some parts of its range, it is overhunted. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed it as a "vulnerable species".

A unique and diverse albeit phylogenetically restricted mammal fauna is known from the Caribbean region. The region—specifically, all islands in the Caribbean Sea and the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands, and Barbados, which are not in the Caribbean Sea but biogeographically belong to the same Caribbean bioregion—has been home to several families found nowhere else, but much of this diversity is now extinct.

Mongalla gazelle Species of mammal

The Mongalla gazelle is a species of gazelle found in the floodplain and savanna of South Sudan. It was first described by British zoologist Walter Rothschild in 1903. The taxonomic status of the Mongalla gazelle is widely disputed. While some authorities consider it a full-fledged monotypic species in the genus Eudorcas, it is often considered a subspecies of Thomson's gazelle, while other authorities regard it as subspecies of the red-fronted gazelle.


  1. Cassinello, J.; Cuzin, F.; Jdeidi, T.; Masseti, M.; Nader, I.; de Smet, K. (2008). "Ammotragus lervia". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species . 2008: e.T1151A3288917. doi: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2008.RLTS.T1151A3288917.en . Retrieved 19 November 2021.
  2. Grubb, P. (2005). Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M. (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN   978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC   62265494.
  3. 1 2 Grubb, P. (2005). Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M. (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN   978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC   62265494.
  4. Encyclopedia of animals. Great Neck Pub. 2017. ISBN   9781429811255.
  5. 1 2 Grubb, P. (2005). Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M. (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN   978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC   62265494.
  6. Acevedo, Pelayo; Cassinello, Jorge; Hortal, Joaquín; Gortázar, Christian (1 June 2007). "Invasive exotic aoudad (Ammotragus lervia) as a major threat to native Iberian ibex (Capra pyrenaica): a habitat suitability model approach". Diversity and Distributions. 13 (5): 587–597. doi:10.1111/j.1472-4642.2007.00374.x. hdl: 10261/118202 .
  7. Cassinello, Jorge (September 2018). "Misconception and mismanagement of invasive species: The paradoxical case of an alien ungulate in Spain". Conservation Letters. 11 (5): e12440. doi: 10.1111/conl.12440 .
  8. Cassinello, J.; Serrano, E.; Calabuig, G. & Pérez, J.M. (2004). Range expansion of an exotic ungulate (Ammotragus lervia) in southern Spain: ecological and conservation concerns. Biodiversity and Conservation13: 851-866
  9. Nogales, M.; Rodriguez-Luengo, J. L.; Marerro, P. (January 2006). "Ecological effects and distribution of invasive non-native mammals on the Canary Islands". Mammal Review. 36 (1): 49–65. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2907.2006.00077.x.
  10. Wacher, T., El Din, S. B., Mikhail, G., & El Din, M. B. (2002). New observations of the ‘extinct’ Barbary sheep Ammotragus lervia ornata in Egypt. Oryx, 36(3), 301-304. doi : 10.1017/S0030605302000534
  11. Manlius, N., Menardi-Noguera, A. and Zboray, A. 2003. Decline of the Barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia) in Egypt during the 20th century: literature review and recent observations. Journal of Zoology (London) 259: 403-409. doi : 10.1017/S0952836902003394
  12. Jamel Ben Mimoun, Jorge Cassinello, Saïd Nouira (January 2016). "Update of the distribution and status of the aoudad Ammotragus lervia (Bovidae, Caprini) in Tunisia". Mammalia.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

Further reading